I “broke up” with my psychotherapist yesterday. I’d been seeing her for 11 years — longer even than I’ve had this blog — and it was time. I have not quit therapy, though; I’ve found a new therapist. I still have lots of stuff I need to work on in my life; it’s just that I no longer felt I was getting anywhere with my old therapist. I did a lot of great work with her — she was really good at helping me understand my past. But I have talked my past to death and I’m tired of it. And I have not been able to get myself to a good place in the present. So I thought it was time for a fresh approach.
It had been building up for a while. I had mentioned several times over the last few years that I was not satisfied with my progress. After my birthday and the new year, something clicked in me, and I decided it was time to think about moving on.
Last week, I told her that I was going to be meeting with a new therapist, but that I hadn’t decided yet what I was going to choose to do. She reacted a bit snidely: she said it was kind of like having an affair, like trying to escape the hard work involved in a relationship by looking elsewhere. I felt really surprised and insulted by that. I was not acting on a whim; I had worked hard in my therapy; I had been incredibly patient. Maybe too patient.
Her defensiveness only helped convince me that it was time to move on.
My new therapist is a gay man, which I hope will give me a fresh perspective on things. He’s also more oriented toward the here and now, as opposed to my old therapist, who was much more Freudian and interested in my past, my dreams, and so on.
About 20 minutes into my first session with the new therapist, he said to me, “You seem like someone who thinks a lot about things.” I had brought with me a short list of what I consider to be my main issues in life, and at the very top, I had written: “Overthinker.” Bingo! He got me.
He also asked me a question about something at one point, and as I answered it, I started to ramble. I’m very good at free associating; it’s a bad habit of mine. But as I began to yammer on, he stopped me and said I wasn’t really answering the question. In other words, he corralled me back in. My old therapist would never have done that; she would have just let me ramble on. It was refreshing to be interrupted, to be called out on my bad habits.
After meeting with the new therapist twice, I decided not to prolong it and to just take the plunge and quit my old therapist.
She was a bit pissy last night when I told her I was ending my therapy. I had only been talking for about 15 seconds when she took a blank sheet of paper from her stack of blank sheets and start writing up my final bill. I stopped talking and said, “What are you doing?” And she said, “I’m writing up your final bill.” So I looked at her and said, very firmly: “But I’m talking to you.”
I don’t know if I would have been able to be so assertive a few years ago. Maybe I would have; I don’t know.
She stopped writing and put down the piece of paper, and then we had an honest conversation about my decision.
It feels incredibly freeing to have quit. It was one relationship in my life that I had never really considered ending, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to survive without her and that I would miss her. Now that I’ve done it, it feels great. I will be able to survive without her.
It feels — like I said — freeing.